De-Criminalizing Sinful Acts
In Canada, being married to more than one person is illegal. It is in fact, a criminal offence. Section 293 of the Criminal Code prohibits “any form of polygamy [or] entering into a conjugal union with more than one person at the same time.” The maximum penalty is five years in prison.
While I am certainly not an advocate for polygamists, I fail to understand why it is considered a crime. Laws are intended to prevent harm to society at large. So, it is not really the “marriage” that bothers us is it? Isn’t it the multiple relationships that we find abhorrent? If it is the behavior of the polygamist that troubles us – that being that he is not monogamous, then we’d better get busy and make adultry a crime too.
Seriously, a married man (or woman) is within his legal rights to cheat on his or her spouse, with or without said spouse’s knowledge. A man is permitted to have sex with multiple partners, separately or all at one time without legal consequences. He is legally entitled to live “in sin” with as many “partners” as he chooses (assuming they too choose him). Society in general, does not advocate such behavior, but we don’t prosecute partakers. Why then do we make it a crime for a person to “marry” multiple partners? What difference does it really make if the persons involved in the activity have gone through a “ceremony”?
Perhaps the harm to society comes in the sense of the legal rights and benefits of spouses. I may be viewing this in a very simplistic view, but why couldn’t we simply not recognize the multiple spouses? Let them get “married” in their religious ceremony, but when it comes to the “state” you can only claim one spouse. Let’s just get out of the bedrooms of consenting adults. Let’s allow people to choose how they want to live without governement intervention, but let’s protect the real interest of society by recognizing only one legal spouse per person. Isn’t that really simple? Am I missing something?
There are those who will say that polygamous communities, such as Bountiful BC, are not only engaging in polygamy, but they are forcing children to marry older men. In my mind, that is a completely separate issue. Sexual abuse of a child should not be confused with polygamy. A child cannot legally consent to sexual relations with adults – period. There are child protection laws to deal with that situation, and I would support aggressive prosecution of any person, polygamist or not, who sexaully abuses or interferes with any child.
Difficult to prove? Of course it is. As a former child protection social worker, I can tell you that sexual abuse of a child is never easy to prove – even outside of religious cults.
If Bountiful’s leaders, Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler are found guilty and imprisoned, what will the financial cost be to society? Will imprisoning these two men put an end to the practise? I can’t imagine that it will.
So there you have it… just some of the reasons that support the notion of de-criminalizing Polygamy.